You’ve decided your teen is mature enough to stay home alone after school. But you still worry about what could go wrong.
How do you create a safe and low-stress environment for your son or daughter?
One of the first things to do is set ground rules. Ask yourself:
- Should you let their friends come over?
- Can they be trusted to cook?
- Should they do homework or maybe light housework before you get home?
- How much screen time is ok?
Although it’s widely accepted that teens 13 and up are able to stay home alone after school, you still want to build in safety features.
“No matter how responsible a teenager is, or how comfortable they feel being alone for a few hours, there’s a lot to consider,” said Brooks Michael, an adolescent health educator for Carilion Clinic’s Adolescent and Student Health Services.
“It’s a rite of passage for both teen and parent,” she added.
Michael suggests you follow these safety practices:
- Ask them to call you when they get home
- Have an emergency plan so they can react quickly if there’s a fire or an injury
- Post a list of emergency phone numbers. These should include 9-1-1, your work and cell numbers, and those for neighbors, other family members and trusted friends.
- Store your medicines in a locked cabinet
- Make sure potentially dangerous items like guns, razor blades, knives, scissors, and power tools are locked away
- Consider what potential poisons may be in your home and secure items like pesticides, lighter fluid and even detergents
- Have flashlights with fresh batteries available
- Make sure your smoke alarms are working
Also, talk to your teen about privacy issues and how not everyone is a friend.
Let them know:
- Not to tell people they’ll be home alone or to share that fact on the Internet
- Always keep their “location” private on social media
- If someone calls, they should never say you’re not home. Tell them to say you’re busy and take a message.
- Likewise, they should never open the door to service or delivery people or other strangers.
It’s a learning curve, for sure.
“Don’t worry if it takes time for you both to feel comfortable with the whole process,” said Michael. “As time goes on, you’ll feel more secure about having your teen at home, and they’ll develop a confidence and emotional maturity that will serve them well in life.”
After all, isn’t that what any parent would want?
Is your teenager getting too much screen time? Learn more about the guidelines.